It was also the first season-opening win by a team called Lotus since American Mario Andretti, who went on to take the title that year, triumphed in Argentina in 1978.
“I had a very good car all weekend even though I didn’t do any long runs in the winter,” said Raikkonen, whose 20th career win equalled the tally of double world champion compatriot Mika Hakkinen.
“You just have to get through the early laps in the first race of the season. Near the end, I was still pushing because I knew Fernando was catching up a bit and I thought at some point we would need a little extra if the rain came again,” he said.
“It’s only the start of the season, there is a lot of work to do if we want to fight for the championship,” Raikkonen said.
That he was able to beat the Red Bull of three-time champion Vettel so convincingly was a surprise not only to Raikkonen’s rivals.
“I have to share with you that we also were expecting the domination of Red Bull,” Boullier said. “Even if we knew that it would maybe struggle more with the tires, but at the end we are happy that we could do it.”
Alonso’s Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa finished fourth ahead of 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton in his first race for Mercedes after leaving McLaren.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber had a terrible start from the front row and came up short in his 12th attempt to win his home race, finishing sixth.
Adrian Sutil, returning to the sport after a year out, enjoyed a long period as the unlikely leader of the race, but finished seventh, just ahead of his Force India team mate Paul di Resta.
Jenson Button, the winner of three of the last four races at Albert Park, was clearly off the pace, but brought his McLaren home in ninth, with Raikkonen’s French teammate Romain Grosjean claiming the final point in 10th.
The race started with 21 cars after Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber suffered a fuel system failure and he was unable to take to the grid, while Caterham’s Charles Pic was allowed to take part by the stewards despite not having set a qualifying time.